There have been reports over the past few days of large flocks of Horned Larks in Rockingham County. A Snow Bunting and two Lapland Longspurs were seen with these flocks. Also, there was a Short-eared Owl seen along the Shenandoah Valley regional airport. None of these are life birds for me, but I only have a visual record of a Snow Bunting and would like some photos, and the Lapland Longspurs and Short-eared Owl are great birds to see here. So with these three target birds in mind, Walt Childs and I headed out to look for them.
It was supposed to be cold, but sunny. However, the day was cold and overcast, making for some grainy photos on this trip. On the trip there, a Merlin and then a Wild Turkey flew across route 151. We drove first to the areas where the Horned Larks were reported, but we didn't see any of them, nor the Snow Bunting and Longspurs. We may have seen some American Pipits, but they were too far away for a positive identification. The third Red-tailed Hawk of the morning landed in a tree with its breakfast.
Our next stop was at Lake Shenandoah. There were some common birds in the wooded areas, but all we saw in the lake were three Pied-billed Grebes and a lone Ruddy Duck.
We headed over to nearby Lake Campbell where we saw Canada Geese, a small flock of Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, Pileated and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Great Blue Heron, and a pair of Mute Swans (most likely domestic).
Great Blue Heron and Ring-necked Ducks
We made a stop at the pond just south of Elkton along route 340, and saw Canada Geese, Mallards, American Black Ducks, and American Wigeons.
American Black Ducks
When we got to the regional airport, we saw two Horned Larks in the parking lot, but no owl. A boldly colored Red-tailed Hawk flew from a nearby tree, there were a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks, and the first of two Northern Harriers of the day flew by.
Our last stop was a bend in Strickley Road near New Hope where we have seen Horned Larks several times, and Lapland Longspurs last March. Along the way we saw a few sparrows and one of several American Kestrels that we logged on this trip.
Female American Kestrel
Strickley Road proved once again to be a good spot for Horned Larks, as we saw a flock of about 50 of them, but we did not see any other bird species mixed in with this flock.
There are at least 16 Horned Larks in this photo - can you find them?
We ended the trip with 41 species for the day. No target birds, but a fun trip.